Writing today in the International Herald Tribune, Peter Charles Choharis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, calls for a new American mission for Iraq:
"The recently issued National Intelligence Estimate predicts that in the next 12 to 18 months, the security situation in Iraq will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to last year, when tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed monthly and many more fled. According to the report, "sustained mass sectarian killings," assassinations of key religious or political leaders or "a complete Sunni defection from the government" could trigger a total collapse.
"No one in the Bush administration or among the Democrats disputes the forecast. They are ignoring it.
"President George W. Bush is sending tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into Iraq. Most Democrats want to withdraw troops (some immediately) and let the Iraqi army and police secure the country, even though the National Intelligence Estimate says Iraqi security forces are not likely to be capable of that in the next 12- 18 months.
"Both President Bush and the Democrats demand that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government make tough political choices, even though the Parliament has regularly lacked a quorum because members are too frightened to attend.
"Neither the administration nor the Democrats are planning for a worst-case scenario.
"If Iraq collapses, the United States must have in place detailed plans and budgets to secure safe havens for Iraqi noncombatants; to configure a troop deployment capable of responding to mass migrations; to stockpile food, shelters and medicine for masses of internally displaced civilians, and to vastly expand the paltry $35 million spent last year on Iraqi refugee assistance.
"Beyond legal and moral reasons, America has strong strategic interests in preventing a humanitarian disaster. Abandoning Iraq could create failed states that fund and protect terrorists. Regional wars could erupt as Saudi Arabia and others intervene to protect Sunnis while Iran does the same for Shiites, or as Turkey moves against Iraq's Kurds, and the entire region scrambles for Iraq's oil. Millions of Iraqis would try to flee to America, Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East.
"The Bush administration contends that "failure is not an option" in Iraq. If humanitarian relief becomes part of our mission, then no matter what happens in Iraq, the United States can still achieve victory."